While it’s not usually a premise for a good movie, it’s been successful on television in the incarnations (pardon the pun) of Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven. While Disney has put them in the infield and the outfield in an attempt at motion picture comedy, Nicolas Cage’s usually-deft portrayal of a befuddled outsider faltered in the tragedy City of Angels.
Still, his portrayal of Seth and the movie’s script did not try to advance some interpretation of angels as “promoted” dead humans – and there was a hint of the bafflement that a created heavenly being might experience in the world of living saints and sinners.
A long introduction, I know, but it brings me to my point: I get the impression when reading scripture that angels, who have never experienced materiality (they’re ministering spirits, right?), must observe our world with some measure of perplexity. Just imagine how you or I would feel, being able to glimpse their realm but completely lack words to describe it. Or, better yet, read the attempts of John to do so in the Revelation.
I’m also persuaded that the church of century one believed that angels were with them in their assemblies. Paul tried to disabuse the Colossians of the notion that angels should be worshipped (just as an angel does, twice, with John during the course of his vision). Much of the book of Hebrews seems to debunk their superiority to mankind. Then it draws to its close by advising: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) That’s a good old-fashioned Jewish call to hospitality, of course – but is the author referring only to the time Abraham hosted three of the heavenly host?
Do angels worship with us? Does it help them sort out our gender by having hair of short length for men and long for women? (1 Corinthians 11:10) Would angels, who are messengers by nature, really appear in our world and preach a gospel (Galatians 1:8), or is Paul using a quaint exaggeration to make his point? Would an angel take the form of someone we know (Acts 12:15), or was that a merely human misunderstanding of how they protect and serve?
Or is it that they did once worship with the church of century one, but no more? Has the day of the rebellious angels’ Judgment already come, as described by Jude?
Is it possible that God has sent these messengers among His saints – not only to protect and serve – but also to observe what faith means among those who have never seen God yet try to live pleasing lives … and report back to Him what they have seen in order for them to get a better grasp of the Really, Really Big Picture?
And if any of what I have proposed above is even remotely possible, how will it affect the way you and I regard the strangers in our assemblies come Sunday morning?